Next month our Genk U-19s will face Atlético Madrid in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Youth League. It’s another massive tie after they knocked out their peers from Juventus in the previous round. In the Al Abtal Cup, an international tournament with opponents such as Real Madrid and Slavia Prague, they were clearly too strong for AEK Athens on Wednesday. The Greeks were sent home again with little reward, and this international success is no coincidence. From 'small' Genk we have formed a talent factory that is not inferior to the established big names in top-level international football.

CIES Football Observatory, a group of researchers working for the International Center for Sports Studies in Switzerland, has made a top 100 list of all professional clubs worldwide based on the player value of their youth activities. In that illustrious list, our academy ranks as the best club in Belgium, sitting in an impressive 29th place. We rank ahead of superpowers such as Manchester United, Atlético Madrid, Dortmund and AS Roma.

Should we attach much importance to this list? Roland Breugelmans, Director of Training, explains in more detail:

“When you are ranked among the 30 best youth academies in the world by an international research group, you can certainly be proud of that,” Breugelmans starts off.” “But it only becomes really impressive if you also look at it in perspective. To begin, we are not working in a metropolis such as London, Barcelona or Amsterdam. You can also extend this reasoning in your own country. The Brussels-Capital Region has more than one million inhabitants. The district of Antwerp alone has more than half a million inhabitants. There, the talent pools are simply a lot bigger than in a city like Genk with roughly 60,000 inhabitants.”

“Belgium is also not such a football-crazy country as, say, Brazil or Portugal, where children can, so to speak, play football even before they can walk. That makes the initial pool of talent from their own region a lot smaller. Finally, you cannot ignore the fact that KRC Genk does not have the same financial resources as the great sides in the world of football. When we take those three factors into account, you can't help but be proud of our 29th place. It confirms that our operation here is more than perfect and our philosophy is the right one," concludes a man who is the driving force behind our academy.

Keep up the good work, Genkies!